B2B Marketplaces Never Close Because of Viral Pandemics

“You only find out who’s swimming naked when the tide goes out.” -Warren Buffett  

This is a favorite of the financial legend, uttered, for example, when the nation’s top financial institutions were exposed by plummeting home prices more than a decade ago.

I couldn’t help but think of Buffet’s nugget of wisdom — that you don’t really know the risks until something or someone is tested by adverse conditions — when the Natural Products Expo West in Anaheim, Calif., was postponed at the 11th hour on Monday.

We were among the first voices calling late last week for Expo West to take the Coronavirus threat more seriously considering the nature of our trade show, which is a vital and massive annual event for natural products brands across the continent and is predicated on nearly 100,000 people sharing and consuming millions of product samples.

While we are sympathetic to the many losses that come with a cancellation of this magnitude, count us among the many who are rightly considering that there has to be a better way. While cost of attending a trade show is still a great value when compared to traveling around the country meeting with prospects, it seems like a hefty price to pay when there are so many technologies and innovations available to achieve similar or greater outcomes.

B2B e-commerce marketplaces serve many of the same functions as a trade show, and at the fraction of the cost. (Full disclosure: We’ve built the first B2B international marketplace for the wellness industry and it will never be shut down because of Coronavirus)

Face to Face Time: I get it — in our industry and many others, this is how business begins. I had no fewer than two dozen meetings set for Expo West.

I’m rescheduling the most important ones using now ubiquitous video conferencing like Zoom, and we are also making ourselves available in that fashion in four-hour blocks over the next couple weeks to give brands an opportunity to make up for their Expo West losses and get the word about their products.

Moving forward, though, we’ve got the technology for that. Grovara’s marketplace platform streamlines new brand introductions, communications via email, and real-time demos.

Knowledge: It’s the leading currency at trade shows. Both brands and retailers/distributors have it, but we do need to consider the source and motivations for the information being shared. At a trade show, while brands are putting their best spin on their product niches, sales figures and production capacity, retailers/distributors are shining their own areas of expertise in access to target markets and logistics capabilities.

Within the Grovara marketplace, brands can provide tutorials on their products, sign up for a trade finance credit insurance policy, and learn where and how global retailers are actively distributing different kinds of products.

Sampling: The power of in-person sampling is real. However, we all know that we are not often getting true reads on new reactions to our products. It’s a trade show and no one wants to taste something and say, “Ugh, that was weird.” Why not ship samples securely so people can experience the product on their own terms. True reactions will yield true relationships.

So our brands can go on the Grovara marketplace, search for appropriate retailers in their target markets and channels, and perform outreach to quickly and accurately deliver samples to the most aligned recipients.

Marketing: With the demise of Expo West 2020, so much unused swag is now sitting around in unopened boxes and closets. Much of it is plastic. Some of it is single-use. Some of it is useful, but much of it gets thrown or filed away. What if companies spent their swag budget on donations to an aligned nonprofit, and the swag they gave out at trade shows were ways to “claim” their donation and subsequently become involved with said nonprofit?

Beyond that, what kind of marketing are we talking about at trade shows? Brochures? Reports? Independent surveys? Media coverage? That all lives inside our international marketplace, and much of it comes from third parties so it is not just a brand tooting its own horn, but an independent and informed third party’s take on a product’s viability. Our data partner SPINS embeds myriad insights and trends in our marketplace that easily translate to independent and verified marketing pieces.

There will always be good reason for industry groups to gather en masse. However, trade show innovations have remained mostly stagnant the last couple decades, all while technology platforms have emerged that make doing business much easier and faster.

The trade show might be barely clothed, but we are not here to bury it. We are here to bring the best parts of it back to life and demonstrate them through technology platforms like ours.

We owe it to our industry to use the very best tools to repair a system that has shown increasing vulnerability to cracks.

And no one likes being left out all alone, naked and exposed.

Here, come this way — let’s get you a towel or something to cover you up with.

Our industry needs to be creative because of losses realized, and identify ways we can decrease the cost of doing business with each other. 

We’re rolling out our solution next week, stay tuned.